Thus creating, “Thanksgivukkah.”
While it might sound like something out of Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” (Put on your yarmulke/here comes Hanukkah/It’s so much fun-akkah to celebrate Hanukkah…), Thanksgivukkah is a celebration the likes of which won’t be seen again for nearly 78,000 years.
Thanksgiving is celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday of November — a tradition established by President Abraham Lincoln, who on Oct. 3, 1863, with the nation embroiled in a bloody Civil War, issued a proclamation setting aside the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanks. Americans keep track of that date using the Gregorian calendar, but Hanukkah is governed by the Hebrew calendar, which can have between 353 and 385 days per year. So the start date for Hanukkah varies in relation to other holidays, typically falling in December. It’s important to note that Jewish days start at sundown, thus Hanukkah will technically begin Nov. 27, but will share most of the day with Thanksgiving.
Minus the mathematical equation, there’s no doubt that the coincidence has created a friendly firestorm of good cheer and excitement.
“It appears that members of my faith are having a wonderful time with this occasion,” says Sherry Blanton, a member of Anniston’s Temple Beth El. “Hanukkah is not a serious religious holiday, such as High Holy Days or Passover, so I think it is terrific for Jews everywhere to have fun with this event. Frankly, there are not enough reasons to have fun and this holiday of Thanksgivukkah gives us a good reason to have a good time.”
In fact, Thanksgivukkah has become something of an Internet sensation, with a variety of ideas taking advantage of a unique marketing opportunity.
● Asher Weintraub, a 9-year-old fourth grader from Brooklyn, invented the “menurkey,” a turkey-shaped menorah that’s selling for $50 at www.menurkey.com. Weintraub has sold upward of 1,500 menurkies.
● Jewish cooks have created recipes for everything from pumpkin latkes (potato cakes) to turkey brined in Manischewitz, a kosher wine.
● Rabbi David Paskin of Norwood, Mass., co-wrote “The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah,” which manages to rhyme “latkes” with “religious minorities.”
“It’s pretty amazing to me that in this country we can have rich secular and rich religious celebrations and that those of us who live in both worlds can find moments when they meet and can really celebrate that convergence,” Paskin said in an interview with the Associated Press. “There are many places in the world where we would not be able to do that.”
America has long been a linguistic melting pot, creating blended terms for many of our favorite cultural touchstones, including jazzercise, carjack, manscaping, Bennifer (originally coined when Ben Affleck was dating Jennifer Lopez and maintained when he actually married Jennifer Garner), metrosexual and sexting, but Thanksgivukkah may be the only portmanteau to be trademarked.
The idea for Thanksgivukkah came to Dana Gitell, a 37-year-old marketing specialist from Boston, in 2011 after glancing at a calendar that laid out Jewish holidays over the next five years.
“I was driving and thinking about what you would call that day and rolling the words around in my mind, and I came up with the word ‘Thanksgivukkah,’” Gitell recently told Time magazine.
Hanukkah is a minor holiday that commemorates a miracle first described in a compilation of rabbinic disputations called the Talmud. After foreign soldiers desecrated Jerusalem’s Second Temple in the second century BCE, Judas Maccabee purified and rededicated it on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which is when Hanukkah now starts. Although there was only a one-day supply of holy oil, it miraculously lasted for the eight days it took Maccabee to complete his work, hence the “Festival of Lights.”
Given the story of Hanukkah, it doesn’t take much of a stretch to see something of a connection between the Maccabees and the Pilgrims, who sought religious freedom in the New World.
“Hanukkah is a festival of freedom of religion,” says Rabbi David Baylinson, the part-time rabbi for Temple Beth El. “The Maccabees fought for religious freedom. The Pilgrims came to these shores to practice their religion, which they couldn’t do in England. So Thanksgiving, too, is festival of freedom. Frankly, I don’t get excited about the juxtaposition of the two. It’s only a quirk of the calendar that occurs rarely and won’t occur again in my lifetime.”
For all the fun and Internet chatter, most Jews see it for what it is.
“It’s all about marketing,” says Temple member Esta Spector. “It’s just a clever little idea that somebody came up with to get attention — and maybe make some money — of what’s really just a coincidence on a calendar.”
Esta and her husband, Daniel, will be traveling to Foley where they will celebrate with “91 of our family and friends.” They will have Thanksgiving supper at a family log cabin before moving on to the “modern” farmhouse. There will be a hayride and a bouncy house for the kids. Then at sundown, they will gather to light the first candle on the menorah and tell the story of the Maccabees.
“I think it is so cool,” Specter says. “And since it may not happen again (for another) 70,000 years, we will make it a real family celebration. Being with family is what makes holidays worthwhile.”